Originally Posted by ihambrecht
These are all great points. The decision becomes what are the specifications in which a company/ individual/ university granted funds for a project of this undertaking. I love the idea of giving research grants to willing and able thinkers who will provide breakthroughs but how with foresight will we be able to do this better than the private market.
The issue at this point is that the private market invests very lightly in private research, especially in fundamentals or highly speculative technology. They have essentially offloaded it to academics and government labs, both of which are funded by the government nearly entirely. There's a lot of reasons behind that development which are probably too much to get into for this thread, but it's a more or less functional system.
One of the major reasons that industry has gotten out of the fundamental research game is that the profit potential is incredibly difficult to gauge. Some things pay out orders of magnitude beyond their cost, some pay off to a lesser degree. Many have purely intellectual payouts and may trigger some other innovation down the road. Others fail entirely. It's extraordinarily difficult to predict which is which, and so we have this system where government steps in and funds things with the assumption that producing good science leads to profit. And it has worked out.
I see you list NSF and DoE but what exactly would give them the foresight that they have lacked in years past to accurately procure money to qualifying parties? I say this in a purely theoretical and admittedly ignorant knowledge on the operations of the these two federal bureaucracies.
I don't think they have failed. The bureaucracy is generally good at spreading money around to qualified research groups, who still do better research than any other nation in the world. We have some problems, but it's a pretty efficient system overall.
Well, if you keep Congress out of the specifics, anyway.
There no doubt needs to be investment in our infrastructure at a whole but whenever projects at that scale are discussed politics come into play, how do modernize infrastructure without creating more debt and why should we go through that process in a time where our resources are stretched thin?
I don't have an answer to that. The hope would be that economic growth would pay off the cost, or (more depressingly) that we simply don't have a choice as the status quo becomes increasingly more expensive.
edit: the first comment in that article has a lot of useful information that contrasts the idea that fracking is largely the result of government help, at least in respect to how i read it while prepping for bed.
My point was never that fracking was the sole (or even majority) product of government, but that the interplay between government and industry led to this boom. Neither would have likely produced it on their own.